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PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Duterte-New-Year-2018If I were President Rodrigo Duterte, this would be my New Year’s Resolution for 2018:

My fellow countrymen: First of all, I’d like to congratulate myself for surviving a tumultuous 2017. I feel that I have been blessed for being able to keep our country safe from the drug menace. Not that I have eradicated this social disease, but because there are now at least 12,000 hard-core drug users neutralized since I took office in 2016. Well, if my calculation is correct, there are still 3,988,000 drug users out there who need to be neutralized.

I promised to eradicate illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption within three to six months. But as you know I’ve been so naïve to think that there were only 20,000 drug addicts, who could easily be neutralized within six months. Gen. Bato, my trusted and capable Chief of the Philippine National Police assured me that it could have been done. But as it turns out there are four million drug addicts, not to mention the hundreds of Chinese drug lords that have been smuggling the illegal drug shabu right under the noses of Bureau of Customs officials. And God knows how many drug pushers there are in the distribution of shabu. Heck, they even tried to implicate my son and son-in-law in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu. Well, I did the right: I fired the Commissioner right away!

I want to tell you my beloved Filipinos that I will protect you from the danger of illegal drugs. As you know I love the Philippines very much and I’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of drug addicts.

When an informant told the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) of the existence of a shabu laboratory operating inside a piggery and poultry farm, I sent PDEA agents to shut down the lab. The lab was concealed beneath a huge warehouse at the foot of Mt. Arayat and was just three kilometers from the regional police training center and the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center. The PDEA arrested seven Chinese nationals found in the compound, which makes me wonder: How many shabu laboratories Chinese drug lords in the country are operating?

Well, I don’t have the vaguest idea how many shabu labs exist but when I found out that there is a large shabu lab and distribution center in Marawi City, I ordered the Marines to arrest the drug kingpins in Marawi City who happen to be the leaders of the terrorist Maute group and Abu Sayyaf Group. But the terrorists have dug in the city in underground bunkers. I did the right thing when I declared martial law in Mindanao. It worked!

I ordered the Philippine Air Force to bomb the hell out of Marawi. After five months, the Marines killed the three leaders of the terrorists and hundreds of their followers. I was so proud of the Marines. To show my gratitude, I went to the frontline myself and pinned medals on them. I had to wear a combat helmet because I was so near the bombed out area. To tell you the truth, almost the entire city was obliterated from the aerial bombing. Somebody told me that it reminded him of when Intramuros was destroyed during World War II. I told him, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

There has been a lot of brouhaha from the international community lately because of the extrajudicial killings. The United Nations, the United States, and the European Union have no business poking their noses in the bloody business of neutralizing the drug pushers and users. As a sovereign nation, we have every right to chart our course and pursue an independent foreign policy. And as I promised you, there will be no let up in the war on drugs. That’s why I am authorizing Gen. Bato to get involved again in Oplan Tokhang, which is our main weapon in the war on drugs. I pray to God that the Supreme Court justices will not rule Olan Tokhang unconstitutional. If they do, I just might declare martial law and abolish the Supreme Court.

And believe me folks; we’re winning the war on drugs. Don’t believe the naysayers who are saying that there are now more drug users than when I started the campaign in July 2016. But if there’s any truth to what they’re saying, well, they should blame the Chinese drug lords for flooding the country with shabu from China.

Recently, I found out that smuggling shabu into the country is prevalent. Smuggling is so easy because the Philippines has one of the longest coastlines in the world. There is just no way that the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard could stop drug smuggling. Smugglers and shabu lab workers from China could come in and out easily by boat or airplane. The “chemists,” who are the key personnel in a shabu lab, usually travel first class.

I realized that the smuggling, manufacturing, and distribution of shabu can only be made possible with the collusion of corrupt politicians from the national level down to the barangays. Also playing a pivotal role in the drug trade are some elements of the military and police. I also heard that there are personnel in Malacanang – they might even be close to me — who provide protection to those involved in the drug trade. I still have to find out who these people are. But I will, I promise you that. I will not stop until I find them.

As you know, the drug network is like an octopus: there is the head and the tentacles. No matter how much you sever the tentacles, they’ll re-grow again for as long as the octopus’ head exists. It is indeed a challenge for me to find the head of the octopus. And I believe there are several of them. But believe me, I’ll find them.

Recently, I signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terror organizations, following the collapse of the peace talks. I instructed the military to finish them off.

Putting all these into consideration, the following are my New Year’s resolutions for 2018:

1) I resolve to stop corruption because we cannot win the war on drugs unless we eradicate corruption.

2) I resolve to increase the size of the Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard to guard our coastline.

3) I resolve to hire more police officers to make sure that we’ll win the war on drugs.

4) I resolve to promote more generals and assign them to fight the communist rebels. My goal is to defeat them by the end of 2018.

5) I resolve to double the salary of military and police personnel to make them happy lest they might stage a coup against me.

6) I resolve to increase the pork barrel funds for congressmen and senators to insure their loyalty to me.

7) I resolve to support Sen. Manny Pacquiao for President in 2022 because in my opinion he is the only one who can beat Vice President Leni Robredo.

8) I resolve to keep Sen. Leila de Lima in detention at least through the end of my term.

9) I resolve to imprison Sen. Antonio Trillanes as punishment for opposing me.

10) I resolve that if I fail to achieve my new year’s resolutions, I’ll declare martial law nationwide and jail all my political enemies.

There is one thing that must tell you, though. I cannot stop the Chinese drug lords from their smuggling activity. They’re just too powerful and I believe high Chinese officials who are close to my idol, Xi Jinping, are protecting them. But Xi promised me that he’d look into it. Well, so much for that for now.

Happy New Year!

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Gold-bullions.4On August 29, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte said that members of the Marcos family were “willing to open” and “return” to the government the questionable wealth, including a “few gold bars.” “The Marcoses, I will not name the spokesman, sabi nila (they said), ‘we’ll open everything and hopefully return yung mga nakita na talaga (those that had been discovered),” he added.

Recently, rumor was circulating in the news that the Marcos family and the Philippine government had agreed on a compromise agreement – which would include immunity from prosecution — for the return of a “portion” of their allegedly ill-gotten wealth. But former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and President Duterte debunked the rumor and said that no agreement had been reached. However, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had confirmed that lawyer Oliver Lozano, a supporter of the Marcos family had submitted to Malacañang a draft proposal for the return of a part of the Marcoses’ wealth to the government.

According to Lozano, his proposal was based on the April 9, 1973 notes of then president Ferdinand E. Marcos “bequeathing his earthly goods to the Marcos foundation for the benefit of the people.” Duterte should then issue an executive order lifting the freeze so that the government would have a share although Lozano did not say by how much.

It’s interesting to note that Lozano’s proposal did not say how much the Marcoses were willing to return. If he was referring to what the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) – created by then president Cory Aquino after Marcos was ousted from power in 1986 – had estimated to be $10 billion, of which $4 billion the PCGG had recovered, that it can be presumed that the remaining “wealth” in question is only $6 billion. And what would be the “portion” of that wealth the Marcoses were willing to return?

What Lozano did not take into consideration was the amount of loot that Marcos recovered from Japanese treasure sites all over the Philippines during his dictatorship. The recovered gold is now referred to as the “Marcos Loot.”

In my column “Brouhaha over the Marcos Loot” (January 11, 2013), I wrote: “The hunt for the fabled ‘Marcos Loot’ is beginning to look like an Indiana Jones sequel. The only difference is that this one is for real with real life characters, tons of real gold bullions, and a 2,000-pound solid gold Buddha filled with real diamonds, emeralds, and other precious stones that would make the Queen of England look like a pauper.

“And after three decades of hunting for the Marcos Loot that began the day the late President Cory Aquino kicked the Marcoses out of power, the hunt is finally coming to an end during the presidency of her only son, Benigno Aquino III. Not that the Marcos Loot has been recovered but that the government had seemingly lost the will to continue the hunt.

“Soon after Cory took over power and established a revolutionary government in 1986, she formed the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and mandated it to hunt for the Marcos Loot. Twenty-six years later, the PCGG claimed that it had recovered $5 billion of the estimated $10 billion loot in the form of hard cash, artwork, jewelry, secret bank deposits, and corporate assets. But where is the gold?

“But nobody really knows how much the Marcos Loot is valued at. Some experts estimate it to be more than $60 billion. Some say at least $100 billion. But here is the stinger: Imelda Marcos showed evidence that her husband deposited a very large sum in a bank in Brussels, Belgium that would make the loot PCGG was trying to recover look like loose change.

 Imelda shows a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars.

Imelda shows a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars.

“In February 2009, a BBC reporter interviewed Imelda Marcos. Imelda showed the British reporter several paintings by masters hanging on her living room walls. When the reporter asked where she got her wealth, she said that her husband was a very rich lawyer who worked for gold mining companies and also traded in gold. She then showed the reporter a piece of paper, which the reporter read. It was a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of… are you ready for this? Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars. That’s the equivalent of 41.5 trillion Philippine Pesos!

“In his 2003 book, Gold Warrior, Sterling Seagrave told the story of the hunt for Yamashita’s Gold, which began when Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines in October 1944. A team of men, whom he personally selected, wasted no time searching for the treasure sites. They found several treasure sites. MacArthur used the recovered gold to establish a trust fund for Emperor Hirohito after Japan surrendered in August 1945. Known as Showa Trust, the fund’s trustees were Hirohito and MacArthur himself. Nobody knows the exact amount of Showa Trust but by 1982 it was paying nearly $1-billion interest per year! MacArthur also set up the M-Fund to back up the newly formed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which became the dominant political force in Japan to this day.

“So, what happened to the rest of Yamashita’s Gold?

Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito.

Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito.

“First of all, Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita had nothing to do with the loot. He was wrongly linked to the loot because he happened to be the top Japanese commander in the Philippines during the waning days of the war.

“The real person who was responsible for looting Asia was Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito. As head of the ‘Golden Lily’ campaign, Chichibu oversaw the plunder of conquered territories.

Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, first cousin of Prince Chichibu.

Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, first cousin of Prince Chichibu.

His first cousin, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, was in charge of hiding the loot at 175 secret vaults scattered around the Philippines. Takeda had a young Filipino valet named Ben Valmores. When Takeda sneaked out of northern Philippine when the Americans were closing in, he gave a copy of the maps to Valmores for safekeeping and to be given back to him upon his return. He never came back.

One of the treasure maps.

One of the treasure maps.

“But some of the treasure maps found their way to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. In 1968, he sent a team of military officers to Japan to make a deal for joint recovery of ‘Yamashita’s gold. They met with a prince, a cousin of the Emperor, who told them that Japan hid over $100 billion worth of loot in the Philippines that would take ‘more than a century’ to recover it all. It’s not known if an agreement had been reached. However, Marcos proceeded with the hunt.

Rogelio Roxas and the gold buddha.

Rogelio Roxas and the gold buddha.

“In January 1971, Rogelio Roxas, a Filipino locksmith and amateur treasure hunter found a tunnel behind the Baguio general hospital and crawled inside. He found a 28-inch tall solid gold Buddha that weighed one ton, and thousands of gold bars! This was the first treasure site discovered since the end of the war. Roxas, with the aid of 10 men, took the golden Buddha home.

“President Ferdinand E. Marcos heard about the discovery and sent his men to confiscate the golden Buddha. When Roxas protested, he was arrested and allegedly tortured.

“It is said that by the time Marcos was deposed from power during the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, his men had recovered tons of gold and precious stones from 12 treasure sites. Where did Marcos hide his loot?

Evelin Hegyesi, illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent.

Evelin Hegyesi, illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent.

“In 2004, an illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent, Evelin Hegyesi, surfaced in the news in Australia. Her name is Analisa Josefa Hegyesi. Josefa is the name of Marcos’ mother.

“Investigations by The Sun-Herald revealed that Evelin’s Australian companies have financial links to Marcos’ secret accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The Sun-Herald provided a dossier of the Australian link to the Marcos loot to the PCGG. But the trail went cold.

“In 2011, Analisa was in the news. Now 40 years old and an interior designer, Analisa was reported by The Daily Telegraph that she was fired from a TV reality show ‘Renovators’ after she revealed to her producers that she was Marcos’ daughter.

“PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista heard about it when his staff showed him The Daily Telegraph news account. ‘We will look at the money trail and see if the amount to be recovered would be worth the lawyers’ fees we would be spending for it,’ Bautista told the media.

‘Recently, it was reported in the news that PCGG would be abolished. However, Bautista said that the hunt for the Marcos Loot would not end; the job will be continued by the Department of Justice. He said that the reason for closing the 200-man agency is that it is no longer cost effective to hunt for the $5-billion leftover from the Marcos Loot.

“But who says there is only $5 billion left in the loot? The original estimate was made 26 years ago, at which time the extent of the loot was not fully accounted for. And it may never be accounted for. But like an iceberg, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg… until you submerge into the water. It’s the same with treasure hunt; you never see the loot until you dig it.

“In September 2009, then presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III, made his first campaign promise: ‘I will recover the Marcos Loot.’”

With the news that the Marcoses had offered to return the “loot” to the Philippine government, the question remains: Where is the Marcos Loot hidden?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

 Here we go again.

Every administration since the time of President Fidel V. Ramos has tried to amend the 1987 Constitution for various reasons. The people have consistently rejected the idea of amending the Philippine constitution in surveys after surveys, and yet the move to amend that sacred document, in what is commonly called “cha-cha,” surfaces almost year after year.

Ramos was the first to push “cha-cha” when he sought a shift to a parliamentary form of government and the lifting of term limits on elected officials, arguing that the changes will bring more accountability, continuity, and responsibility to the gridlock-prone presidential bicameral system.

That first cha-cha attempt was met by strong opposition, highlighted by a 500,000-strong rally against cha-cha at the Rizal Park on Sept. 21, 1997. Two days later, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) to amend the constitution through a people’s initiative. Note that the cha-cha was initiated in 1997 towards the end of Ramos’ six-year term.

Under President Joseph Estrada, another attempt to change the constitution was made, but only sought to amend its economic provisions. But fears were expressed by the opposition that the move might be used to amend political provisions, such as lifting the term limits or shifting to a parliamentary government.

The most attempts to amend the constitution was made during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who through an executive order in 2004 created the Consultative Commission tasked with making proposals to amend the charter. The commission headed by Dr. Jose Abueva proposed a shift to a unicameral parliamentary form of government, economic liberalization, decentralization of national government through a parliamentary-federal form of government.

Again, the Supreme Court, by a narrow 8-7 vote, rejected a people’s initiative by Sigaw ng Bayan to implement the Abueva Commission proposals.

Then Speaker Jose de Venecia, Arroyo’s ablest ally, tried to push cha-cha in December 2006 by convening the House of Representatives and the Senate into a constituent assembly, or what is more popularly and aptly known as “con-ass.” The opposition and militant groups held a huge rally to oppose De Venecia’s moves.

But Arroyo’s allies were not to be dissuaded. In May 2008, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. introduced a Senate resolution, backed by 16 senators, seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending the constitution and establishing a federal form of government. Nothing came out of the proposal despite heavy support from both the congressmen and senators as a strong opposition to the proposals claimed it was a veiled attempt by Arroyo to perpetuate herself in power.

But Arroyo was not done yet in her attempts to change the constitution to shift to a parliamentary form of government. After stepping down from the presidency and winning a seat as Pampanga representative in the Lower House, Arroyo filed a resolution together with her son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, calling for amendments to the Constitution.

Apparently, Arroyo was not contented with her more than nine years as president. She had obviously wanted to become the first prime minister of a new parliament under a new Constitution, a position with no term limit. Again, nothing came out of her efforts as she was later jailed on plunder charges under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In October 2011, almost two years into the Aquino presidency, both Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte pushed for Congress to convene itself into a constituent assembly to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

Many more attempts were made to push cha-cha during Aquino’s six-year term, but strong opposition from the public stopped these moves.

Now comes President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies again flexing their political muscles with renewed moves to amend the Constitution. Duterte, who ran on a platform of a shift to a federal form of government, vowed that a national plebiscite on constitutional amendments would be held two years into his term. That promise, one of many he made during the campaign, is nearing its deadline and his allies are obviously moving mountains to make cha-cha a reality.

Picking up from his father, Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles said the shift to federalism is the priority of the House this year. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s hack man in Congress, on the other hand, made known their ulterior motive when he said that there’s a possibility there would be no elections in 2019 if the shift to federalism succeeds. The next day, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, said Duterte’s term may be extended during the transition to the federalism shift, which could take years, probably 10 according to some.

Although Malacanang has denied Duterte was interested in extending his term and might even step down before the shift is implemented, we all know that these are mere blah-blah from a presidential mouthpiece. As Alvarez had said, anything is possible once the shift is approved. If indeed no elections would be held next year, then Duterte would be able to fill up virtually all elective positions with his own allies.

With Nograles and Alvarez, both close allies of Duterte from Davao, arguing strongly for Congress to constitute itself into a constituent assembly or “con-ass,” it’s almost certain the people will have their asses kicked by these leaders of the House of Turncoats as they ram down the federal-parliamentary form of government.

Divisive is actually the key word to why the cha-cha should be repulsed again, cast in cement and dropped in the Philippine Deep where it should lay for a long, long time. Once the cha-cha debates are reignited, the national attention would be focused again on highly political and divisive issues, instead of being concentrated on the two biggest problems at hand – the worsening poverty and corruption.

Do we really need charter change?

It doesn’t matter if new economic policies are put in place, or a new form of government installed as long as the whole political system remains corrupt, the country will still not move forward. I subscribe to the notion that the constitution is not the problem, but a lack of political will on the part of our leaders to enforce it fairly and lawfully.

The constitution is a sacred document that should not be tampered on the whims and caprices of politicians. Unless it is ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that a particular provision is hurting the country and the people, it should not be touched. Laws should be made to enforce the charter provisions, and not the other way around.

(valabelgas@aol.com)

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano 

FederalismI have heard so much talk about federalism, but the greater the volume of talk, the greater the confusion, not understanding. After years of efforts by many political individuals, federalism remains a strange animal, somewhat familiar but defies description. There are the general definitions of federalism but unfortunately no specific one – as specific as the one that President Duterte will probably bless. All other versions will only find value in an intellectual debate – at best.

Different dictionaries offer similar definitions, especially in the fundamental concept. Let me share a few:

One points to the United States government and says it is based on federalism, with governmental power divided between several entities.

Another says federalism is a distribution of power in a federation between the central authority and the constituent units (as states) involving especially the allocation of significant law-making powers to those constituent units.

Still, another describes federalism as a mixed or compound mode of government, combining a general government (the central or federal government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system.

My last choice of source asserts that federalism is a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. Generally, an overarching national government is responsible for the federal governance, governing the issues that affect the entire country, while the smaller subdivisions, states, and cities govern the issues of local concern.

Above, the four examples I used are similar in the essence. Yet, forming our own federal system will eventually establish a federal type of government that will not be the same, only similar in principle. In fact, our present presidential system can be argued as a legitimate and faithful example of a government that has a distribution of power between several entities, a mixed or compound mode of government combining a general government with regional governments, and a distribution of power between the central state and regional or provincial units, a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. The biggest difference between our presidential system and federalism appears to be not in the principle or the concept but the terminology – as in presidential versus federal.

If we trace the first articulated thoughts and concerted efforts to push federalism, they seem to have come from discontent at the way the disadvantaged experienced governance – more by the particular application of governance concepts and laws rather than the principles of the presidential system. Philippine politics, after all, have hardly ever been about political principles or platforms of government but rather individual views and leadership styles of the highest officials. Because there has been a clamor, not by the populace, but by particular politicians, for a change from our presidential system to a federal type of government, it can actually be traced to partisanship where the winner takes most and losers the crumbs – if at all.

I myself have articulated many personal views and sentiments in the last 16 years of writing weekly opinion pieces. In theory, that makes me ripe for substantial, even radical, change. But I have always been clear that my criticisms have covered mostly errant bureaucratic attitudes and actions, hardly about presidential or federal governance. I always saw that the flaws were rooted in character traits of our political, economic and religious leaders rather than divergence in their views. Advantages and disadvantages occurred along partisan lines and not in contrasting principles. The advantaged want to perpetuate the system good to them, even willing to tweak it so it becomes even more advantageous. The disadvantaged want change, of course.

The danger is changing for the wrong reason or changing forms of governance when the culprits are those who govern. We are trying to fix what is not broken but not changing those who keep breaking whatever is there. In other words, as I look at the principles or definitions of federalism, they give no guarantee that abuses of power can be prevented or stopped. Abusers can use the federal form of government as easily or as much as they can abuse the present presidential system. The federal form of government that favors those in power will be the form of choice, whatever that will be. Any form of government can be abused if its senior officials want to do so and the people allow them to get away with it.

I am not in love with the presidential system as we have it now because I have seen its helplessness to be an effective deterrent against perennial poverty and corruption. Simply from the point of view of change, I am quite open and even welcoming a change of government form. But I have observed quite closely the deviant or criminal behavior of those in power and how they can manipulate the law to suit their agenda. A change of the form of government, however, does not prevent the same politicians and bureaucrats from polluting and exploiting any new form of government. We desperately need a change in values, putting nobility and sacrifice at the top of the totem pole of public service and placing somewhere at the bottom the lust for power and wealth at any cost.

I hope that a clear and concise description of the particular form of federalism that will be promoted will soon be explained to the public. I hope, too, that we seek to strengthen the whole rather than selected parts. That would not be any change at all, just a shifting of opportunities to gain while others lose. Yes, there have been areas that have been disadvantaged, either by bad governance or simple partisanship. Federalism or any other form of government cannot solve that, only good governance and statesmanship.

We are a nation in the making. Our unity in purpose and action is primordial to success whether material or moral. May that which deliberately nurtures our unity become the future choice of government.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/110195/50-shades-federalism#ixzz53wKw8mss
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PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Huk Founder and Leader Luis Taruc (center, holding newspaper) with his rebels.

Huk Founder and Leader Luis Taruc (center, holding newspaper) with his rebels.

Ever since the Philippines gained her independence, the young country has been at war with various rebel groups. First, the Hukbalahap or Huks for short.

The Hukbalahap, which stands for Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon (The Nation’s Army Against the Japanese Soldiers), was a communist guerilla movement formed by the peasant farmers of Central Luzon. It was originally formed to fight the Japanese invaders. However, after World War II ended, the Huks continued their guerilla warfare against the Philippine government. Known as the Hukbalahap Rebellion, it was defeated through a series of agrarian reforms and military victories by then President Ramon Magsaysay. He created the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR), a resettlement program for landless peasants and Huk rebels who surrendered. It was a tactical victory for Magsaysay who used the Huks’ slogan “Land for the Landless” as his own, establishing homestead settlements in Mindanao for them. He gave each family a carabao and a plow in exchange for their weapons. It worked! It broke the back of the Huk movement and peace was achieved in Central Luzon where the Huks waged their rebellion.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos  talking with Bernabe Buscayno alias Commander Dante, Supreme Commander  of the Maoist New People's Army during his capture sometime in the 80's.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos talking with Bernabe Buscayno alias Commander Dante, Supreme Commander of the Maoist New People’s Army during his capture sometime in the 80’s.

Then came the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It was founded by Bernabe Buscayno (“Commander Dante”) on March 29, 1969. Maoist-oriented in its strategy of “protracted people’s war,” the NPA was estimated to have 3,200 fighters by the end of 2015. However, the NPA leadership claims that they have more than 15,000 fighters.

In 1992, during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos, the Anti-Subversion Act of 1957 was lifted; however, the NPA continued to operate. It collected “revolutionary tax” from businesses in the areas where they operated. They continue to do so today.

Peace Talks

Top communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon (3rd and 2nd from left, respectively) lead other newly-freed NDF consultants in raising their fists at the NAIA 3 before they fly to Oslo for the historic resumption of the peace talks between communist rebels and the Philippine government. Photo courtesy of Reddie JS 8-20-16

Top communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon (3rd and 2nd from left, respectively) lead other newly-freed NDF consultants in raising their fists at the NAIA 3 before they fly to Oslo for the historic resumption of the peace talks between communist rebels and the Philippine government. Photo courtesy of Reddie JS 8-20-16

In 2011, peace talks resumed between the government and the CPP, NPA, and the National Democratic Front (NDF). The talks have been going on and off since then.

Last December 5, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. He vowed to finish them off during the remainder of his term through 2022.

Incidentally, a “Christmas Truce,” which had been observed by both the NPA and Philippine Army since the 1970s is not going to be observed this year. This is a big setback to the peace process.

Muslim rebellion

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members, led by its founder, Nur Misuari, display the group’s flag in rites held in Indanan town, Sulu province.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members, led by its founder, Nur Misuari, display the group’s flag in rites held in Indanan town, Sulu province.

In the southern Philippines, there is a different kind of war; various Muslim groups are waging a “war of liberation.” The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its rival the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are the two major Muslim rebel groups.

The MNLF was founded in 1972 as a political organization. It started as a splinter group of the Muslim Independence Movement. In 1996, the MNLF signed a landmark peace agreement with the Philippine government during the presidency of former president Fidel V. Ramos. The peace accord led to the creation of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Peace at last or was it?

The signing of the peace agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine government brought about a rift in MNLF leadership. In 1984, the splinter group MILF was established. Peace talks began between the MNLF and the government. But it collapsed in 2008 when the Supreme Court ruled against a preliminary accord that would have expanded the ARMM.

In 2011, the MILF withdrew its demands for independence and instead agreed to pursue “substate” status, similar to a U.S. state. On October 7, 2012, President Benigno Aquino III announced a peace deal with the MILF and declared, “This framework agreement paves the way for a final and enduring peace in Mindanao.”

Elusive peace

BIFF rebels (also known as BIFM).

BIFF rebels (also known as BIFM).

But the peace agreement between the government and the MILF did not achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. A smaller group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Umbra Kato, that broke away from the MILF in 2008, disagreed with the MILF’s acceptance of autonomy rather than full independence, which was what Kato wanted.

On April 14, 2015, Kato died from an illness. Ismael Abubakar took over leadership of the BIFF. BIFF suffered another split, when Ustadz Karialan left and formed another group after disagreement with other BIFF members regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ideology.

Last May, a new group emerged in Mindanao. Founded by the Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar, the Maute group, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, was a radical Islamist group composed of the Maute fighters and former MILF rebels. The group joined forces with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) and attacked Marawi City. The battle of Marawi lasted for five months. It ended with the deaths of the Maute brothers who were killed by government forces during a siege of Marawi. The leader of ASG, Isnilon Hapilon was also killed.

Bangsamoro

Bangsamoro rebels.

Bangsamoro rebels.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Congress has been trying to pass a bill known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to establish a proposed new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR). It would replace the current ARMM.

BBL is an organic act that would provide for the basic structure of government for the BAR. It would enact the agreements set forth in the peace agreement signed between the MILF and the government of former president Benign Aquino III in 2014.

If Congress passes BBL and is signed by President Duterte into law, it would legalize the existence of MILF, which would give it political preeminence among the other rebel groups in Mindanao including the MNLF, BIFF, ASG, and the newly organized Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM).

Under the draft BBL, the BAR government shall have the primary responsibility over public order and safety, while the Central Government with its AFP and PNP would be responsible for safeguarding the BAR’s external security. That means that once MILF takes over control of the BAR government including its own police force, it would exercise police power over the other rebel groups. If that happens, it would surely shatter any prospect for peace. It would be back to the trenches for all of the rebel groups. And once again, the Central Government would be caught in the middle of fraternal warfare among the Muslim rebels.

Price of peace

In my column, “The price of peace in Mindanao” (August 19, 2011), I wrote: “The ideal thing to do is to expand the FPA [Final Peace Agreement signed between the government and MNLF in 1996] to include MILF. But this is easier said than done. However, if [President] Aquino is going to pursue a separate treaty with MILF without involving – or consulting – MNLF, the political dynamics in Mindanao could dramatically change.

“The President’s meeting with the MILF chairman was indeed a great leap forward. However, it remains to be seen what direction it would take? Will it lead to the creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro “sub-state,” exclusive of MNLF and separate from ARMM? Or, will it unify MILF and MNLF under the aegis of ARMM… and bring peace to Mindanao?”

Same issues, different players

Map of proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Map of proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

It’s interesting to note that the issues faced by Aquino in 2011 mirror the issues faced by Duterte this year. While there are other issues that need to be worked out, none is more important than bringing the various rebel groups to the table and fashion an entity that would satisfy all the groups’ concerns. Failure to do so could crush any hope for achieving peace in Mindanao. The challenge is: How could Duterte bring all the rebel groups to the table and unify them under the umbrella of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region? It’s s tall order, but nothing short of it would achieve peace.

Peace is like a tree. You plant the seed on fertile ground and nurture it. You fertilize and water it. It may take years for the tree to bear fruit. But when it starts to bear fruit, you spray it with pesticide to protect it from harmful pests. And like a tree, give peace a chance to grow.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Drug-pusher-killed-and-wifeWhen President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30, 2016, he vowed to rid the country of illegal drugs, crime, and corruption in three to six months. Six months went by and the drug problem was still around. He then extended the deadline by another six months. A year and a half later, the drug problem still exists. What happened?

During the final session of the oral arguments on the two petitions seeking to nullify the government’s war on drugs, two Supreme Court justices observed that the number of drug users have more than doubled and there had been almost 4,000 killings since Duterte assumed office last year.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio noted that drug users in 2015 was set at 1.5 million as cited under the Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016, which contains the provisions of Project Double Barrel, the anti-drug campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP). However, data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) showed that by 2016, drug users had ballooned to 4.7 million. “So it actually increased during the term of President Duterte. Is that correct?” Carpio asked Solicitor General Jose Calida. Calida said the data “was not really accurate and was understated.” [Source: Inquirer, Dec. 5, 2017]

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen also noted that there had been almost 4,000 people killed since last year. “There are thousands upon thousands of people who are killed either in police operations or found on the side of the road,” Leonen said. “Would you say we are now suffering a crime wave consisting of a lot of murders?” he asked Calida, who responded: “I am not an expert on that your honor.” “But with the 4,000 murders for a period of one year, don’t you think that this is something we should worry about, regardless of who these people are?” Leonen said. Leonen also noted that the number of deaths went up after July 2016 when Duterte took office. [Ibid]

During the hearing, it was revealed that Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016 had explicitly stated that there are three transnational drug organizations operating in the Philippines. The memorandum stated, “Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug syndicates dominate the drug market in the country.” It also stated that these Chinese syndicates “facilitate production, manufacturing and bulk smuggling of dangerous drugs in the country.” [Ibid]

Calida said that based on statistics, there were 418 Chinese who were arrested. However, he stressed that they were “not killed, but arrested.” Calida added that they could not determine what exact role of those arrested by the police was — whether they were users, peddlers or manufacturers. [Ibid]

Chinese drug lords

Alleged drug lord Peter Lim.

Alleged drug lord Peter Lim.

Carpio asked Calida: “How many Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug lords have been neutralized by the PNP since July 1, 2016?” [“Neutralized” is a euphemism for “killed.”]

Carpio further asked Calida: “Can you explain why PNP, in this circular, is concentrating on street-level operations and is practically ignoring the big time drug lords? How come the flagship project of the president is concentrated in going after small-time peddlers? Why not big-time drug lords?” Carpio lamented how the anti-drug campaign had focused on street level pushers and users when Chinese and Filipino-Chinese drug lords dominated the drug trade. Calida said Duterte’s instruction was to go after all drug users, sellers and manufacturers. “The big-time Chinese drug lords are outside our jurisdiction. They are in China,” he said. [Ibid]

With the Chinese drug lords operating in China, where they’re “untouchable” and protected by corrupt Chinese officials, the Philippine authorities couldn’t do anything to bring them to the country to be prosecuted.

Shabu labs

Police raid shabu lab in Mt. Arayat.

Police raid shabu lab in Mt. Arayat.

It is a known fact that the illegal drug crystal methamphetamine — known as “shabu” in the Philippines – is mainly produced in China. China has unrestricted availability of precursor chemicals, which is the main ingredient in the production of shabu. The shabu laboratories are believed to be located in the region around Guangdong and Hong Kong, and along China’s eastern and southeastern coastal areas. Many of the shabu traffickers are from organized crime groups based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.

The shabu trade is controlled by small, tight-knit groups of Chinese who oversee the entire process: from the procurement of precursor chemicals in China to the production of the drug in the Philippines to its distribution by local gangs. Philippine authorities say many of those running the shabu trade are Triads, the ruthless criminal syndicates that have long been involved in drug trafficking.

Due to China’s abundance of precursor chemicals and its unregulated chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the country has become the world’s major exporter of precursor chemicals.

Smuggled drugs

Meth-flows-mapPhilippine officials say that shabu is smuggled from China by passing it from large ships to smaller vessels, mainly off the coast of Luzon. Packages are sometimes dropped into the sea along the country’s long coastlines and picked up by fishermen. They then pass the shabu into the hands of local drug traffickers. [Source: Reuters: Meth gangs of China play star role in Philippines drug crisis, Dec. 16, 2016]

It is not uncommon that large amounts of shabu are smuggled through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and other ports in the country.

Police capture Chinese “chemist” and “cook” at the meth lab in Mt. Arayat.

Police capture Chinese “chemist” and “cook” at the meth lab in Mt. Arayat.

Another method of production is the use of shabu labs set up all around the country. The drug syndicates flew the production experts into the Philippines from China to work at the labs. They come in on separate flights posing as tourists or businessmen. They include a “chemist” to oversee the operation and a “cook” to actually make the synthetic drug. One such lab – a former piggery farm — was located at Mt. Arayat in Pampanga. The police raided it after a local resident notified the police of the presence of Chinese nationals lurking around the farm.

It is interesting to note the ease of which shabu is smuggled into the country. Surmise it to say, this could only happen with the collusion of corrupt customs officials and local politicians who protect the drug lords and their shabu labs.

A lot of questions remain unanswered, but one thing is certain: the government is losing the war on drugs.

Last December 5, Duterte issued a directive that allows the PNP to participate again in the war against illegal drugs. However, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) remains as the overall lead agency in the campaign against illegal drugs. But bringing back the PNP into the bloody campaign isn’t going to eradicate the drug menace. Simply put, killing drug users is not going to win the war on drugs. For as long as the country is proliferated with illegal drugs, the peril of drug addiction continues.

The challenge is: how can the government stop shabu smuggling and shut down the shabu labs? Evidently, corruption drives the government’s inability to fight the drug traffickers. Is it then fair to say, “Stop corruption and you can win the war on drugs”? It’s worth a try.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Duterte-and-Sison-NDFIn a country where groups and organizations are identified by colors, two groups – the “reds” and the “yellows” – have taken center stage in the political arena. On the side of the reds are the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF). On the yellow side are the Liberal Party (LP) and the “Yellow Army,” supporters of former president Benigno Aquino III.

President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, a self-styled socialist, believes that the reds and yellows are conspiring to topple his administration with the backing of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It did not then come as a surprise when he made a bold move to rein them in, particularly the reds, which he recently tagged as “terrorists.” But terrorists or not, the reds pose a grave threat to the nation’s security, which has been the case for the last four decades.

Until now, the reds were treated as “rebels,” which gave them a semblance of legitimacy. Not anymore. They’re dangerous terrorists! But aren’t rebels dangerous too?

Duterte-and-communist-flag.3It’s strange that Duterte who was once associated with the NPA when he was mayor of Davao City is now against them. He was even quoted in a news article back in 2014, as saying he would forge a coalition government with leftists and Muslim separatists if elected president. While it made the “progressives” happy, it made a lot of people nervous.

When Duterte was elected president, he had several “reds” appointed to key positions in his administration including four Cabinet positions. Duterte’s decision to bring leftists into the inner circle of his government was praised by CPP Chairman and Founder Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison, who said: “It’s the first time ‘progressives’ will have a president as ally.”

Duterte also earned praise from Luis Jalandoni, Chairman of the National Democratic Front (NDF). Jalandoni said that he welcomed Duterte’s gesture aimed at reviving peace talks with the communist rebels. Jalandoni also confirmed that Duterte would grant general amnesty to 543 “political prisoners.” There were even talks of forming a coalition government with the NDF-CPP-NPA. That was then.

NPA rebels.

NPA rebels.

Last November 23, Duterte terminated the peace talks with the “reds,” citing the “rebels’ supposed failure to display sincerity to the peace process.” “While we agreed to resume peace talks with the aforementioned group and exerted our best efforts to accelerate the signing and implementation of the final peace agreement, the NDF-CPP-NPA has engaged in acts of violence and hostilities,” he said.

Duterte vs. Sison

Sison reacted with a strongly worded statement, describing Duterte as a “consistent political swindler and demagogue who depends heavily on lying.”  “Duterte does not mind being proven a big liar on the question of coalition government. He thinks that he can move on from success to success at political swindling, Sison said. “Now, he is being carried away by his obsession to establish a fascist dictatorship through charter change under the pretext of adopting a pseudo-federal system under his overcentralized despotism and terrorism,” he added. “As a president in a rush to become a fascist dictator, he (Duterte) expects to have limitless opportunities for bureaucratic corruption like his idol Marcos, especially in overpriced infrastructure projects, government purchases and cheap sale of raw materials,” the CPP founder also said. [Source: The Philippine Star]

In another news report, Duterte vowed to order the arrest of the “dying” Sison if he returns to the Philippines. “And if Joma Sison comes here, I will arrest him or if I were him, ‘wag na siyang bumalik dito (never come back here),” Duterte said in a speech before the San Beda College of Law annual alumni homecoming. “Better still, I will not allow him to enter his native land and that is a very painful experience especially if you’re dying and you think na you should be buried in your own cemetery, in your own town,” he added.

But it was only last April when Duterte advised Sison to come home because he was “very sick.” He promised Sison he won’t be arrested if he came home. But last November 24, a day after terminating the peace talks, Duterte once again vowed to arrest Sison if he returns home. Why the sudden change of heart?

Revolutionary government

Duterte-in-military-uniformSurmise it to say, Duterte would most likely proclaim a revolutionary government soon, which he had wanted to do for sometime now. The only explanation why he hasn’t done it yet is because of the strong resistance from the military. But by pitting the military against its longtime nemesis, the communists, Duterte could then convince the military to support a revolutionary government that excludes the ”reds.”

In my column, “Revolutionizing martial law” (October 27, 2017), I wrote: “But President Duterte figures that by forming a revolutionary government, he can still avail of the military’s support, which is stacked up with loyalist Dutertistas, who would keep him – and themselves — in power. And they’ll be part of a power structure that will protect their personal and business interests. It’s a philosophy that keeps the few elite in power.

“Duterte’s idea of a revolutionary government can be traced to Marcos’ martial law regime. Indeed, Duterte is taking a page from Marcos’ playbook. It is ‘revolutionary’ in name only. It is martial law disguised as revolutionary government. What Duterte is doing is revolutionizing martial law. It’s one and the same with one exception: Congress is left out of the power equation. Indeed, it’s coup d’état against the democratic government he was elected to serve.”

Duterte-and-Ferdinand-Marcos.2If I remember it right, Marcos used “communist threat” as the main reason why he declared martial law. He even had his Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile stage a fake ambush to justify the declaration of martial law. And it worked!

Today, Duterte is once again using “communist threat” to rally the military behind him. And if he includes the “yellows” he could eliminate the political opposition just like Marcos did in 1972 when he imprisoned Ninoy Aquino and other Liberal Party leaders. It’s déjà vu all over again.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Philippines-Regions-MapAmid uncertainties raised by President Duterte’s threats to declare a revolutionary government or a nationwide martial law, now comes another debate on a hot issue that would put the country’s future just as uncertain – the proposal to replace the current unitary form of government to that of a federal system of government.

Early last month, the President said he would declare a revolutionary government if opposition to his policies went out of control and chaos ruled the streets. Although he predicated the forming of a revolutionary government to a situation that had at this time has no basis in fact, such as his government weakened and revolutionaries bringing firearms on the street, it still caused enough concern among business leaders.

“A declaration of a revolutionary government will be bad for business, bad for the economy, bad for the country,” the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) said in a statement last week, describing it as something that has no rules and in which uncertainty reigns.

The group, composed of economists, former government officials and businessmen, warned of the negative implications it would bring to the country’s investment climate and overall economic progress.

In fact, the country is losing investors to neighboring Vietnam and other countries because of uncertainties raised by threats of revolutionary government or a nationwide martial law, and now the move to shift to a federal form of government.

Recent moves in the House of Representatives to start discussions on the issue of federalism have again raised concern among political and business leaders because of uncertainties that an entirely new form of government could bring.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice last week cautioned against the rush to federalism, describing the move as “a lethal experiment, a fatal leap, a plunge to death, a leap to hell.”

“I assert that the shift to federalism or amendments to our Constitution to accomplish the goals and objectives of the proponents of federalism is totally unnecessary,” Davide told business executives at Manila Polo Club in Makati.

Davide said the goals and objectives sought by proponents of federalism “can adequately and sufficiently be accomplished by merely but effectively and efficiently implementing the provisions of the 1987 Constitution for strong local autonomy and decentralization.”

The former chief magistrate cited 18 reasons he opposed federalism, foremost of which is the “bloating” of the bureaucracy with the creation of the regional governments.

Davide also said the introduction of elected executive and legislative positions in the regions could breed new or entrench old political dynasties as there would be “more juicy elective positions which will guarantee more fortune, fame and power to soothe politicians and their families,” he said.

Regions and its subunits might become mired in “feudalism” and end up becoming turfs of a ruling political class, Davide added, warning against the continuing “reign of the few.” There would also be more private armies, more warlords, more expensive elections and wider opportunities for graft and corruption with the creation of new public offices, he said.

He added that the rule of law would also “suffer a lot” under the feudal lords while there would also be “disarray” in the criminal judicial system with the “unavoidable” reclassification of federal and state offenses.

Federalism is an issue that, despite years of discussion, remains strange to millions of Filipinos. It would bring an abrupt change to a system Filipinos have been accustomed to for decades. It wouldn’t hurt to exercise extreme caution in rushing to it.

Proponents of federalism love to point to the United States and Malaysia as examples of highly successful federal countries. But they also forget to mention that these countries did not start as one nation. Federal states such as the US, Malaysia, Australia and Germany all began as “a loose collection of disparate political entities that gradually, and with painful upheavals, transformed themselves into a unified nation-state through the process of federalization.”

Writer Michael Henry Ll. Yusinco correctly pointed out: “It would essentially be the reverse in our case. Consequently, we face a much harder, more complicated, and possibly harsher version of federalization. It is thus disconcerting that purported advocates of federalism seem oblivious to the gravity of this sociopolitical reform. They quickly harp on the promise of enhanced local autonomy without even considering the readiness of the local leadership to assume the big responsibility of local governments under federalism, as if the fitness of the current crop for this form of government were already a given.”

We have had a brief look at having an autonomous state in the failed experiment called the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) that only spawned a stronger, abusive political dynasty in the Ampatuan clan, an even chaotic governance, and an economy that insured the ARRM became the poorest region in the country.

As clearly demonstrated by the Maguindanao example, federalism will further strengthen political dynasties. There is no denying that established political clans have been in control of local politics for generations. With greater powers under a federal set-up, what will stop them from further solidifying their hold on Philippine politics? A regional, instead of national elections for senators, would put more of these political dynasties at the national helm by being elected to the Senate.

As pointed out by Davide and Yusinco, the shift to federal form of government would not succeed with political dynasties still entrenched in our political system. Yusinco, for example, pointed to a groundbreaking study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center in 2012 titled “An Empirical Analysis of Political Dynasties in the 15th Philippine Congress,” which showed that lower standards of living, lower human development, and higher levels of deprivation and inequality persist in the communities governed by political dynasties.

Former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis-Briones, now Duterte’s education secretary, had voiced the same concern as Davide regarding the added layers of bureaucracy federalism would create: “Students of public finance have been pointing out that the creation of an additional layer of government—namely the state—will inevitably lead to higher levels of expenditures. This is because the machinery of the states has to be maintained, along with that of the federal government and the local government units. Pressure for higher levels of expenditures will inevitably lead to pressure for increased levels of taxes.”

For example, each of the proposed 11 states would have its own supreme court, parliament, Cabinet departments, state police, etc. that would necessarily entail huge budgets.

A federal form of government will create additional layers of bureaucracy that will lead to even more red tape, corruption and confusion. Businessmen and investors will be the most adversely affected as they will have to contend with conflicting and confusing laws from various states/regions. Can you imagine 11 states with their own agencies on commerce and industry, housing, health, transportation, education, etc. and the federal government having its own, too, all with their own sets of rules?

Instead of unifying the country, federalism could further divide the country. Ilocanos have long considered themselves a people distinct from the Tagalogs, and so do the Visayans, the Muslims, the Bicolanos and other regional tribes or groups. Just when these groups are beginning to blend as one, we now say they are groups distinct from one another.

If one state becomes more progressive and more powerful than the others, what will stop it from moving to secede from the union and become a truly independent entity as what is happening to Spain’s Catalan region?

With not much help from the central government, regions with very little natural resources and existing infrastructures are almost certain to lag behind, negating the primary reason proponents are pushing for federalism. Proponents say federalism would enable each state to grow on its own by using its own resources, taxation and leadership.

Under the present form of government, provinces are given proportional revenue allocations under the Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA). Metro Manila gets the biggest share not because the national government is based in Metro Manila, but because the region has the biggest contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for a more than 36-percent share.

Duterte and the other proponents of federalism may be right that the shift could be the solution to the country’s many problems. But they could also be wrong.

It would be to the best interest of the country that the proposal be discussed more lengthily and more cautiously before we jump into it. It’s an issue that could make or break the country. A little more caution and introspection wouldn’t hurt.

(valabelgas@aol.com)

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano 

 I thought we got a boost hosting the ASEAN Summit that world leaders graced with their presence as well. Then, the 3rd quarter economic performance at 6.9% spoke for itself. Politics notwithstanding, these were two developments that showed the world how resilient Filipinos can be. With Christmas around the corner, I know there is enough reason to feel very positive.

And that is why I have to keep biting my lower lip when I have to read and watch news reports about impeachment and a strange initiative for a revolutionary government. It is a sad but irresistible pattern to turn negative and divisive even at the best of times. Truly, old habits die hard. I know life can be seen as a mixture of blessings and trials, but why do our trials look like curses?

It is not as if we do not have rugged mountains to climb in order to rid ourselves of patterned historical weaknesses. It seems useless to blame our colonial past because we cannot bring back time. But history is not a past that is buried and long gone. History is in our DNA, an inseparable influence and feature of our culture, and deeply ingrained in how we understand things. Most of all, our past established our habits. Well and good if these habits are our bayanihan spirit, our culture of hospitality, and our native inclination to spirituality, beauty, and the arts. But they are also our propensity to be divided by partisanship and to be easily manipulated by puppeteers.

The strengths of our culture have not been enough to prevent a poverty that cannot be explained except by the combination of greed and authority. Poverty is the most undeniable and persistent expression of greed in the hands of the powerful. Filipinos are not an exceptional example; there are worse. But having many other countries more badly off than we are does not mitigate their pain of the impoverished. Having no security of tenure, no decent home and constantly afraid of hunger in a land that is considered one of the most endowed with natural resources cannot be explained unless we point to a strange of history and unconscionable greed. Administration after administration had promised to break this ugly curse but failed. Often enough, each administration refuses to learn from the past and indulge in the same exploitation of the weak.

It is almost a now-or-never situation and I know some of the most frustrated feel that way. When I am tempted to feel the same way, I have to dig deep into history to understand that our country will endure way beyond the present generations it hosts. Our country has the time, all the time, that we do not have. This can be especially galling to those among us with only ten or fifteen good years to live and crave to see our dreams come true. But the country and people will last for centuries and millennia to go. The question is – will they live well or will they suffer?

More than the past, however, I look to the foreseeable future through the lives of our younger generations. They are the near future; they are our next 50 to 80 years. And when I look at them, I feel beyond hopeful – I feel actively optimistic. It must be because changes are happening so fast that the future is less bound by the past in its expression. I know the constants that will hold humankind grounded whatever happens on our planet and beyond. I know that whatever technological advances they may be, the emotional and psychological maturing process will stay. Yes, there will be new tools, new ways of seeing physical existence, new paths of even more radical changes, but human feelings and behavior are not capable of the same rate of change. And the wisdom of the years, the elders, and the wise will always be in demand.

My vibrant optimism does not mean a trouble-free future for our younger and emerging generations. But I see that time and technology are combining with such power that it is virtually impossible to see what the future will look like, That means the past will not have such a strong grip on the imagination and creativity of those who will follow us. More than ever, it is a strong probability that what had so powerfully kept us mired in cyclical man-made disasters may meet a human context that is unimaginably different and endowed with resources, human and otherwise, that can dismantle historical patterns. In this, I am deeply convinced.

My concern for the present is that I see dangers with the awesome capacity to hurt and destroy. There is already the drug trade that is an imminent danger, especially so when public officials are either afraid to confront it or are already corrupted by it. Added to this is the wave of extremism that breeds and fosters deadly violence against almost anyone that is not actively a part of it. It is conceivable that radicalization has created small cell groups, the sleepers or the currently aggressive. We have, too, an unresolved insurgency and a secessionist movement, both potential allies of terrorism. These are mostly internal forces but have extensive connections with the world, from an international drug trade to geopolitics.

Our present and near future are at serious risk even as we have unusual blessings as well. It is said that our public officials are tasked with navigating a murky and dangerous minefield, then leading us boldly and wisely to our secure future. That is not the case, however, and it has not been. In too many instances, our threats are magnified, not mitigated, by those we depend on to protect us. Indeed, the caution of the sages of yore, about how power corrupts, remains an irresistible temptation to many in power. As each individual with power is co-opted by power, the existence of poverty and corruption endures.

The enemy is ever patient and simply waits.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/109122/the-enemy-waits#ixzz50RhAmlZA
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Reflections
By Fr. Shay Cullen
 PREDA Foundation

Ratko-MladicIt was a spark of light from the darkness of human rights violations, horrific war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing that caused the suffering, torture, starvation and mass murder of thousands. That spark of light was the conviction and sentence to life imprisonment of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander known as the “butcher of Bosnia” by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands last Wednesday 22 November 2017.

It came more than twenty years after the massacre at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. When the verdict of conviction and sentence was read out there was relief and satisfaction for the surviving relatives of more than 8,000 men and boys murdered on the orders of the then General Ratko Mladic. They never forgot and they pursued justice to the end.

He led a murderous mission as head of the Serb forces that were killing Muslim civilians to “purify” the Serbian nation. When the Serbian forces were defeated by an international coalition, Mladic went into hiding for 14 years. The international community worked to find him and enforce the arrest warrant issued by the ICC and while Mladic was hailed as a “hero” in Serbia by his devoted and fanatical followers, justice finally caught up with him. He cursed and raged in the courtroom last week while the verdict was read out. That did him no good. He got a life sentence after five years of trial and 600 witnesses gave testimony against him and he will likely die in prison. So it should be for all mass murderers waging any kind of war.

“They will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take. They will be held accountable,” the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights said of all mass murderers after the verdict was handed down. There are still many who committed terrible crimes against humanity and served shorter sentences and now are released. Others were never brought to trial. They participated in those awful crimes in Bosnia, one of the worst atrocities since World War II.

The world has many similar tyrants and mass murderers and justice is denied the countless victims. The ICC can only go after a tiny fraction of the perpetrators. Perhaps the worst atrocities we see daily on television is the present “ethnic cleansing” and abuse going on in Myanmar where Pope Francis has made a speech that called for justice and equality for all ethnic groups but did not mention by name, for diplomatic reasons0, the most oppressed of all, the Rohingya. He will when he gives his speech in Bangladesh.

The murder of children, the mass killing of men and women and the burning of villages of the Rohingya by the military and fanatical Buddhists are horrific crimes against humanity allegedly condoned by the Myanmar Army High Command. They deny all accusations. The murder of infants and the use of rape as a weapon against the Rohingya have been authentically witnessed and recorded A report in the New York Times said: “Survivors said they saw government soldiers stabbing babies, cutting off boys’ heads, gang-raping girls, shooting 40-millimeter grenades into houses, burning entire families to death, and rounding up dozens of unarmed male villagers and summarily executing them.” More than 640,000 have fled into Bangladesh.

The ICC will have a lot to investigate and bring charges against the perpetrators of these crimes. According to the record of the ICC as published on Wikipedia the ICC “has opened investigations into 11 situations: (1) the Democratic Republic of the Congo; (2) Uganda; (3) the Central African Republic I; (4) Darfur, Sudan; (5) the Kenya; (6) Libya; (7) Côte d’Ivoire; (8) Mali; (9) the Central African Republic II; (10) Georgia; and (11) Burundi. The ICC has publicly indicted 41 people. The ICC has issued arrest warrants for 33 individuals and summonses to eight others. Seven persons are in detention. Proceedings against 23 are ongoing: 12 are at large as fugitives, three are under arrest but not in the Court’s custody, eight are at trial, and one is appealing his conviction. Proceedings against 17 have been completed: three have been convicted, one has been acquitted, six have had the charges against them dismissed, two have had the charges against them withdrawn, one has had his case declared inadmissible, and four have died before trial.”

;Most of the accused are from Africa and that’s why Burundi has withdrawn its membership to the court. It says the court is biased. That will not stop the ongoing cases against the accused in that country. The work of the court is very complicated. The need to find witnesses, protect them and catch the fugitives. It is no easy task but if it is to maintain its credibility it has to show a more robust action to bring more to the justice of the court and to speed up the proceedings and win more convictions.

After the atrocities and extermination policy of the Nazis in WWII, it was a cry “never again” that initiated the Nuremberg War trials but today the atrocities and mass killing continue and the perpetrators can get away with these crimes. The conscience of the international community and that of every citizen must be awakened and each must take a stand against the crimes and work for justice. The ICC, weak as it is, is all we have got.

shaycullen@gmail.com